The benefits of exercise in atrial fibrillation (AF)

Today i wanted to do a blog post on the benefits of exercise in patients with atrial fibrillation

We know that patients with Afib often have comorbidities such as diabetes high blood pressure, obesity etc.

We also know that exercise is beneficial because it helps reduce blood pressure, control diabetes and of course reduce obesity.

What we did not know is whether exercise helps reduce atrial fibrillation. Often people worry about exercising because they worry about bringing on epodes of Afib. Also there is a lot of evidence that high level of endurance training can paradoxically cause Afib and therefore there is a lot of confusion as to whether exercise is good or not, how much benefit it is associated with and most importantly exactly how much exercise is beneficial

So last year there was a very interesting study published in the Circulation journal by Malmo et al.

This study was performed in Norway and these chaps took 51 patient with symptomatic paroxysmal or persistent Afib who had been referred for an ablation.

A loop recorder was inserted to record the time the patient was in Afib.
They collected baseline data for 4/52
Then subjects were randomly divided into 2 groups
26 were assigned to a 12 week Aerobic interval training and 25 wre assigned to a control group in which they were allowed to just do what they had always done
Now these guys were not hugely overnight..average height was 6 ft and weight 93kg and BMI of 28

At the end of the study they found the following:

Mean time in Afib increased from 10 to 14% in the control arm and decreased from 8.1% to 4.8% in patients who went through the exercise program

The exercise group had significant improvement in quality of life and reported less frequent AF episodes and less severe AF episodes

Their weight decreased and cholesterol levels went down

And their left atrial function improved!

And these were pretty symptomatic patients because they had been referred for an ablation!

This is a very important study which nicely shows how beneficial exercise is for fib

And so if you want to try it out for yourself, here is the regime to use:

walking or running on a treadmill 3 times a week for 12 weeks.

Each session started with a 10-minute warmup at 60% to 70% of maximal heart rate obtained at exercise testing (HRpeak),

followed by four 4-minute intervals at 85% to 95% of HRpeak

with 3 minutes of active recovery at 60% to 70% of HRpeak between intervals,

ending with a 5-minute cooldown period.

Here is a link to my video on this subject